In front of a full house at White Rock’s Centennial Arena, the Semiahmoo Ravens were named provincial peewee hockey champions.
The Ravens – who have been ranked as the top team in Western Canada and among the best in the entire country, according to various online hockey websites –beat the Burnaby Winter Club 6-2 to secure the BC Hockey Peewee Tier 1 provincial championship Wednesday evening (March 20).
Despite the four-goal cushion on the scoreboard by the final buzzer, it was a unsettling start for the Ravens, who were down 0-2 by the end of the first period.
Shane Kuss – coach of the team alongside Matt Erhart – told Peace Arch News Thursday that the message to his players heading into the second period was simply to “stick to the game plan.”
“We had about four great scoring chances in the first and just didn’t bear down and bury them,” Kuss said. “We felt confident about our play and told our guys to stick with it and play fast. Keep the pucks moving forward.”
The advice paid off as the young squad went on a six-goal run, with the help of a hat-trick by Jordan Gavin. also added an assist in the final. Tomas Mrsic – another key offensive player for the Ravens – also had a big game, with two goals and two assists.
Gavin finished the tournament with nearly a four-points-per-game average – 13 goals and 10 assists in just six games.
Kuss was quick to point out that though players such as Gavin and Mrsic often carried the offensive load, the team would not have been as successful as it was without contributions from throughout the lineup, including goaltenders Garin Wickstrom and Ranvijay Tatla, the latter of which was between the pipes in Wednesday night’s final.
“We rely on certain players to score for us, and others to do other things… but everybody contributed,” he said. “Every player had an impact on what we did this year. To have a season like we had, and to win the games we did, you need everybody.”
Kuss, a former junior-hockey head coach and player who still holds the BC Hockey League’s all-time scoring record, also gave kudos to team manager Chris Roscoe and the parents for their contributions, which he said “allowed myself and Matt to just focus on coaching.”
Winning the title at home only added to the excitement of the moment, Kuss said.
“The atmosphere was unbelievable for a peewee hockey game, and it was really nice to do it in our home rink.”
The provincial title garnered much attention in local hockey circles – especially considering it was a first-ever title for a Semiahmoo peewee squad – and the team’s success even made its way to television. On Thursday, Global TV meteorologist Mark Madryga – himself a Semiahmoo Peninsula resident – wore a Semiahmoo Ravens jersey on-air during a newscast.
Semiahmoo Minor Hockey alum Matt Bradley, who now plays professionally for the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL, tweeted a congratulatory message to the team on Thursday, saying he loved “seeing the old Centennial Arena packed.”
“Way to do the community and alumni proud!!!” he wrote.
The two-goal deficit Wednesday wasn’t the only time during the four-day tournament that the Ravens needed to mount a comeback. On Monday, Semiahmoo fell behind 2-0 to Kelowna, before roaring back to win the game 3-2.
That come-from-behind win gained further importance in light of a loss to Burnaby the following day. Having two losses on their resume would have kept the Ravens out of title contention, and likely bumped North Shore Winter Club into the championship tilt in their place.
The Ravens finished the tournament with 5-1-0 record (win-loss-tie).
Semiahmoo opened provincials Sunday morning with a 7-1 win over North Shore, and followed that up with a 10-3 victory over Victoria’s Juan de Fuca Grizzlies. After Monday’s win over Kelowna and Tuesday’s loss to BWC, the Ravens finished the round-robin portion of the tournament Wednesday afternoon with a convincing 9-1 win over Prince George.
It was a game earlier that day – between the two winter clubs – that secured Semi’s place in the gold-medal match before the hosts had even laced up their skates.
Burnaby – who had already cemented their position as the first-place team – won the all-winter-club battle 8-6, which meant North Shore dropped into third place behind Semiahmoo, who were then locked into the No. 2 position; the top two teams earned berths into the title game.
Even if Semiahmoo had lost to Prince George, and finished with an identical win-loss record as the North Shore squad, Semiahmoo would have had the upper hand in a tiebreaker situation after winning Sunday’s head-to-head matchup.
The victory brings to an end a memorable season for the Ravens, who won the prestigious Pat Quinn Classic tournament in December and in February travelled east to play in the Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament, where they won their first two games against competition from Russia and the United States.
“It capped a pretty good season… a pretty remarkable season,” Kuss said.
Historical night for Semiahmoo first Provincial win pic.twitter.com/PZaKHVahQO— Mark Valliant (@MarkValliant) March 21, 2019